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HomeDEFENCEThe inside story: Mashkoh– Kargil as I saw it # 18

The inside story: Mashkoh– Kargil as I saw it # 18

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After repulsing three Pakistani counter-attacks on Whaleback on 05 Jul, D company firmed in on the objective. I decided to postpone my plan of attack on Pimple 2 from night 05/06 Jul to 06/07 night. Since C company ammunition brought by Captain Anuj was used up in reinforcing D Company to beat back the enemy counter-attacks, some more ammunition was required for Anuj’s platoon before he could go for the next phase of attack to capture Pimple 2. Also, the troops of C Company were used to evacuate the casualties of D company, and the full strength of the company was not available. Two platoons of C company were sent as reinforcements and could not be used for assault on the same night. The ammunition had to be brought from the Mashkoh base through the porters, which could only be done on night 05/06 Jul. Therefore, the assault on Pimple 2 needed to be postponed by 24 hours due to the above factors. I spoke to the brigade commander to take his concurrence, to which he agreed. Night 05/06 Jul was used to carry more ammunition for C Company by the porters, to support their attack on night 06/07 Jul.

C Company Attack

The extent of Pimple 2 was 100 meters by 50 meters. It was likely to be held by a platoon of less than two sections (approx. 15 men) and required one company (approx. 80 men) to capture it. On night 05/06 Jul, the enemy was kept under constant machine-gun fire from the battalion firebase, Whaleback and Pimple1, to keep him guessing as to the actual direction of attack on Pimple 2. The objective was also subjected to heavy shelling from our artillery. The enemy was kept on his toes throughout the night 05/06 Jul. We did not allow him to sit tight on the following day either, on 06 Jul.

Phase 2 operations were finally launched on 06 Jul 99, after a delay of 24 hours. C company concentrated at Whaleback by 2000 hours on 06 Jul and B company (reserve company) under Major DS Punia staged forward in the near vicinity of Whaleback by 2200 hours. Company firebase was established by D company at Whaleback to support the C company attack on Pimple 2. Finally, Major Ritesh Sharma, the C company commander, along with Captain Anuj Nayyar and the forward observation officer (FOO) Captain Gildiyal, prepared themselves up for the final assault. The soldiers knew that the task ahead would be challenging, and many of them might not have a chance to return safely, therefore in those few hours of lull before the assault they prayed quietly for the success.

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Captain Anuj was in the leading platoon, followed by the company commander’s party of Major Ritesh. They left the firm base at Whaleback at 2300 hours 06 Jul and started moving towards Pimple 2 to launch the final attack. Unfortunately, while moving forward, Major Ritesh and his five men suffered severe injuries due to enemy artillery shelling. Ritesh called me up and said, “sir, I have suffered splinter injuries along with five other men”. I asked him just one question, “can you continue your advance or no?” He said that the injuries were severe and he cannot proceed further. I kept my calm and told him to hand over the charge of the company to Captain Anuj Nayyar and asked all the injured to fall back to the RAP for their first aid. I was quite upset with the news of the company commander being injured even before the attack had started. Well, these are ironies of war situations that are unpredictable, and you have to find solutions to overcome the crisis in a balanced and calm manner. 

“Sir, one day, I will supersede you”, Captain Anuj used to tease his senior, Major Ritesh Sharma. Circumstances forced him to take his senior officer’s position and turn this joke into reality. On the battlefield, preparation for potential casualties plays a critical role in the sub unit’s success, if the company commander becomes a casualty, the junior leader should be able to step in and take on the roles and responsibilities of their immediate senior, to carry on with the mission in hand. It can be done if the juniors are trained to take up higher positions in case required.

Pimple 2 was well reinforced by remnants of enemy falling back from Pimple 1 and Whaleback, and it was now a tough nut to crack. After the company commander became a casualty, the company second in command, Captain Anuj took over the control of the company. Captain Anuj continued to command his leading platoon into attack under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire. As the men moved up further, they met stiff resistance. Four machine gun positions on the ridge right in front of them were impeding their progress. Three sangars were on the slope, while the fourth one was on the top of the feature. Clearing all these sangars was a considerable challenge. By 0100 hours 07 Jul C company managed to reach within the assaulting distance from the very first sangar on Pimple 2 and started firing on it.

The enemy retaliated with heavy machine-gun fire and effectively pinned down the assaulting troops. At this stage, Captain Anuj rallied his troops and ordered Havildar Hariom to take a section and move forward to assault the sangar. After receiving a green signal from Anuj, Havildar Hariom took his team and started moving towards the enemy sangar under accurate covering fire provided by Captain Anuj and others. On reaching close to the sangar, Havildar Hariom and his men lobbed the grenades inside the sangar and with the battle cry of Jat Balwan Jai Bhagwan they started shooting at the bewildered enemy behind the sangar.

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Captain Anuj now set his eyes on the second enemy sangar. After reaching close to the second sangar, he ordered his rocket launcher detachment to fire few rounds on the sangar to destroy it. Soon after that he led the charge on the sangar with a few of his men and killed three soldiers inside it. After clearing the second sangar, now Anuj had his eyes on the third sangar, which was located on a higher slope. At this stage, one of the soldiers told him, that it was risky to clear the next sangar as it was in mutual support with another enemy sangar. He answered, “don’t worry buddy, my dad has told me that I have a long life”. After this brief conversation, Anuj looked ahead and started visualising ways to neutralise the third sangar. Finally, after a lot of deliberation and planning with his men, he decided to assault the sangar with the support of LMG fire physically.

Havildar Hariom, SM, 07 jul 1999

Havildar Hariom disarmed three enemy dead bodies of their weapons and carried their three weapons on his shoulders, saying, “I will show the commanding officer the weapons recovered from the dead enemy and tell him that I lived up to his expectations to provide good leadership to my section”. As he was moving forward, he was hit by the enemy sniper fire three times on his head. He collapsed instantly on the ground, and his dream of showing the captured enemy weapons to his commanding officer was shattered. The gallant havildar was one of the candidates who was passed in the promotion cadre by the commanding officer without conducting the test. He had proved his worth as a great leader with grit and determination. The gallant havildar had discharged his duty and given a foothold for his company to launch an attack on other bunkers. He was awarded the Sena Medal (gallantry) for his act of bravery.

He ordered his LMG group to pin down the enemy and used this cover to close in with the enemy sangar with his assault team. Once near the sangar, the team lobed the grenades inside the loopholes and destroyed them by killing three Pakistani soldiers.

Sepoy Surinder Singh, Sena Medal gallantry 07 July 1999

Havildar Kumar Singh, who was the section commander, displayed tremendous grit while neutralising the third sangar along with Anuj. As soon as the third sangar had been captured, the enemy on the fourth and the last sangar on top started firing indiscriminately on Anuj’s team. In this melee, the radio operator of Captain Anuj, Sepoy Surinder Singh was shot from a very close range, and he died instantaneously. Sepoy Surinder had been with Anuj throughout all the operations and had been his pillar of strength in the face of the enemy, continually encouraging him for his bold initiatives. Anuj was quite shaken up on losing his buddy right in front of him but his firm resolve to silence the fourth sangar kept him moving forward. Sepoy Surinder Singh was awarded the Sena Medal gallantry for his act of bravery.

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To know more about the Kargil war, read the book “Mashkoh: Kargil as I Saw It”.

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Brig Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM
Brig Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM
Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM a PhD in Public Administration retired from the Indian Army as Brigadier. He is an infantry officer and author of a book called Mashkoh: Kargil as I saw it. He was awarded Vir Chakra during the Kargil conflict in 1999.


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